Showing posts with label Disneyland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disneyland. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Trenza Tinto

The Grand Californian Hotel is one of my favorite rides at Disneyland.  Right, it's not a ride, it's a hotel, but I find it a very enjoyable place to relax a bit after waiting in lines for the actual rides.  After 5:00, the Napa Rose restaurant is the place to go, but during the day it's the Hearthstone Lounge.  A really good Disneyland adventure involves more time here, less time in those lines.

I tried the Trenza Winery Tinto on a cool afternoon.  This San Luis Obispo County red blend is produced by the Niven Family of Edna Valley, the folks who bring you Baileyana, Tangent and Zocker wines.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant hails from France, but has a love for Spanish grape varieties and does not feel constrained by Old World winemaking rules.

Offered on the menu as a Tempranillo-Syrah blend, the Trenza Tinto is actually a mix of 35% Edna Valley Syrah, 31% Paso Robles Grenache, 22% Arroyo Grande Valley Tempranillo and 12% Mourvèdre from Paso Robles.  Aged 16 months in mainly French oak, this hearty red carries a 14.9% abv number.

The wine is quite dark in color, but the nose seems rather slight to me.  I do pick up nice cherry aromas with hints of oak spice.  The palate certainly isn't shy, showing huge blackberry flavors and spices.  Clove, black pepper and black licorice augment the fruit, and the mouthfeel is full.  It's a very smooth drink, with fine tannins and a nice acidity.  The long finish leaves hints of dark chocolate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


interior of Hearthstone Lounge, Grand Californian Hotel

Several staycation trips to the Magic Kingdom during the summer allowed me to rack up a bit of nice wine time on the Disney property.  There was a time - not too long ago - when that statement would not have been easy to make.  Disneyland was famous - some say notorious - for not serving alcohol in the theme park.  That's back when I referred to the monorail as "Daddy's favorite ride" because it took daddy to a hotel where he could get a refreshing adult beverage.

Oh, there was the private club - somewhere in a "secret" location in the park - which I’m told served drinks, but I never had an invitation to go there.  Things have changed.  Thirsty adults can now find liquid refreshment to their liking at several locations not actually inside Disneyland, but very convenient to the park.

First, there is California Adventure - the companion theme park to Disneyland - which has a vineyard and an enocentric restaurant within its borders.  You can check out my escapades there in another blog post, if you like.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is easily accessed from Disneyland and the shopping expanse of Downtown Disney.  The lobby of the Grand Californian is a great place to escape for a bit of cooling off if the weather is hot.  In the summertime they keep the air conditioning cold enough in there to require some of their employees to wear winter weather gear to keep warm.

Just off the lobby is the Hearthstone Lounge, a comfortable bar with some cozy couch-and-chair seating available.  We made a couple of stops there on recent trips.

Kenwood Jack London ZinfandelTheir wine list isn't incredibly exciting, but it is California-focused, fitting for a hotel that pays homage to the architecture and decor of the Arts and Crafts movement typified at Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee Lodge.

I stayed with the NoCal vibe and ordered a 2009 KenwoodJack London Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley.  Produced with grapes sourced from the Jack London Ranch in Glen Ellen, California, the wine is 94% Zinfandel, 4% Syrah and 2% Petite Sirah.  It carries a 14.5% alcohol number and is fermented in stainless steel, with 19 months aging in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels.  It cost $11 by the glass.

The wine is colored a medium-deep ruby red.  Aromas of bright cherry, smoke, toasty vanilla and cigar box are quite aromatic, while the palate has smokey notes draped over red fruit with a cinnamon spice peeking through.  Gentle tannins and lip-smacking acidity make for a fun-to-drink wine.  Even in the warm weather, it reminds me of Christmas.

Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee ChardonnayOn another visit I tried the Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee Chardonnay.  This Edna Valley beauty is a favorite of mine.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant works with grapes from the Firepeak Vineyard, at the foot of extinct volcano Mt. Islay.  The soil has lava remnants meeting clay and ancient seabed.  Aged in French oak for nine months, the wine is 13.7% abv and sells for $14.50 by the glass.

On the nose, tropical fruit and oak spice leap out while the palate shows golden apples and Christmas spices.  Am I really looking forward to the holidays this much?  Great wood notes on the palate and a fabulous acidity are really a treat.  Pair it with smoked ham.

Valdiguie at Napa RoseNapa Rose is the fancy eatin' room at the Grand Californian.  Call ahead for a reservation - days ahead.  If you fly by the seat of your pants like we do, it's good to know you can order right off the menu in the lounge area, and there's nearly always seating available there for walk-ins.

The Valdiguié grape is similar to the Gamay grape of Beaujolais - so similar, in fact, that it was thought to be one and the same until genetic analysis proved otherwise.  J Lohr's 2010 Wildflower is made using Monterey County Valdiguié grapes from their Greenfield Vineyard.  The wine is vinified completely in stainless steel and 19% of the juice is whole-cluster fermented.  It's $8.50 by the glass, and is a great value.

Medium dark in color, the nose shows a much darker fruit aroma than I expect.  Boysenberry and, surprisingly, a note of tar come forward.  A dark tartness shows on the palate as well.  It has a nice level of acidity, and paired well with the Spanish cheeses - Garritxa and P'tit Basque - but not so well with the yellow and blue cheeses on the platter.

Also at Napa Rose, the 2007 Lasseter Family Meritage from Alexander Valley was an $18 glass.  Very dark and inky in color, the nose shows a lot of alcohol and takes quite a bit of breathing to settle down.  Cassis and blackberry lead the way for the dark fruit aromas with some vanilla notes for spice.  This wine has some very firm tannins; it's really brawny.  The palate shows more dark fruit and has a meaty edge with tar.  It pairs really well with the filet mignon.

Zen of Zin at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki BarA new addition to my Disneyland wine map is Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, in the Disneyland Hotel's Frontier Tower.  It's only been open since June 2011.  If the name sounds like another feature inside Disneyland, I suppose that's by design.

This place is more like a ride than a drinking establishment.  They serve several signature drinks - Krakatoa Punch, HippopotoMai Tai and Schweitzer Falls - which is served "over the rocks" - and with each one ordered, the bartenders give a yell.  "Krakatoa!" is shouted, and a visual effect of an erupting volcano lights up two walls.  "Oh no, a shipwreck!" is followed by a cool blast of air and a darkening of the lights.  The light rain that started falling a couple of times during my visit may have been the result of someone going over Schweitzer Falls.  The bar tricks are fun and the patrons certainly seemed to be enjoying the show. 

Zen of Zin is a Ravenswood Zinfandel, a brand I've found enjoyment with in the past.  This old vine Zin cost nine tree barks in the land of tiki.  Bright cherry on the nose with cedar and spice aromas play into a feisty bright fruit palate with a hint of clove.

I know I should have gone with a boat drink in a tiki bar, but I had a wine.  That's just me.  My wife had a pina colada.  Well, it is a tiki bar.  Enchanted, at that.  This place stands a good chance of becoming “Daddy’s favorite ride.”

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Monday, July 25, 2011


Cantine Russo Uve D oro Nero dAvola

When we go to Disneyland, my wife and I often make California Adventure our first stop.  If it's time for lunch, we head for Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery.

For the uninitiated, they actually grow grapes right there in the theme park.  It's a real vineyard in the same sense that Disneyland's Frontierland is actually the Old West.  But it does make me think of Napa Valley, which is the intent.

A site called All Ears - guess who's ears - has an interesting tidbit to share:
"Anaheim was actually a grape-growing area with a number of vineyards.  But in the 1880s a virus called "Anaheim Disease" destroyed the grapevines, and the growers eventually turned to citrus instead.  This virus still persists, and the vines at the Golden Vine Winery have to be re-planted as they fall prey to it."

The restaurant features nice Italian food and, of course, wine.  The outside area makes a great place to dine and offers a good view of the World Of Color water and light spectacular in the evening.  They say reservations are a must if you want that vantage point.

The Wine Country Trattoria's wine list has some nice Italian offerings in addition to the expected California pours.  I usually pick a California wine, what with Mickey's smiling face looking down from the ferris wheel in the midway.  This time, I chose an Italian vino.

The wine, Uve D'oro Nero d'Avola, is from Cantine Russo.  The 2005 Sicilian red hails from vineyards in Sambuca di Sicilia and has an alcohol level of 12.5% abv.

The dark purple color suggests some rich flavor, and the nose gives it away with black fruit spiced with anise and clove.  On the palate, the flavor of black tea layers over the dark fruit.  It's a very aromatic wine and it tastes simply and rustically beautiful.

While I enjoyed it with the lasagna I ordered, I found myself wishing I had opted for a Sangiovese instead.  I especially like the way Sangiovese pairs with tomato-based food, but this Nero was certainly serviceable.  My wife liked the pairing more than I did, and I have the utmost respect for her sensibilities in pairing flavors.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Federalist Visionary Zinfandel

Alexander Hamilton's face on a ten-dollar bill is something we are accustomed to seeing, but on a wine label, not so much.  The Federalist Visionary Zinfandel features the founding father's face on the label, presumably as a tip of the three-cornered hat to the guys who helped shape the Constitution of this place we call America.

You'll need two of Hamilton's likenesses on paper money to buy one on the label of this wine, and I had it for $15 by the glass at the always amazing Napa Rose in Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel.

This Zinfandel is produced from grapes grown on a vineyard in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.  The vineyard is owned by the Terlato Family and the vines are new.


The Federalist Visionary Zin came as a great capper to a day at Disneyland.  As usual, we hit Napa Rose a couple of minutes before the 5:00 p.m. opening and took a seat in the lounge.

This single-vineyard Zinfandel shows a big, fruity nose and a bit of alcohol, which blows off in about 15 minutes.  The mouthfeel is a little thin for my taste, but the brambly, spicy blackberry flavor carries on for quite a lengthy finish.  The effect of the oak is apparent, but not overdone.

Beaulieu Vineyards Chardonnay CarnerosMy wife was in the mood to linger for a while, so we ordered a cheese platter and I enjoyed an '08 Beaulieu Vineyards Chardonnay from the Carneros region.  A bit of oak appears in this one, but it's nice and balanced in the old California Chardonnay style.


That BV Chardonnay paired best with a buttery triple-crème cow's milk cheese from Normandy, Brillat-Savarin.  Add a touch of sweetness - the walnut-cranberry bread was fine - and it's quite a mouthful.

Going the other way, the Tête de Moine from the Jara region in Switzerland was my next favorite pairing with the Chardonnay.  This "stinky cheese" is also made from cow's milk, and its sharp, nutty flavor played a counterpoint to the creaminess of the wine.  It would really "wow" with a late-harvest Viognier, perhaps.

Honorable mention goes to the Garrotxa, a goat's milk cheese from Catalonia, Spain and the Roaring Forties Blue from Australia's King Island Dairy.